OPINION: Going the distance as Stags turn a corner?
After a disastrous few weeks, which saw defeats to Cheltenham, Colchester and Swindon, on paper picking up solitary points at Barnet and Newport doesn't look convincing - especially when you consider that Steve Evans' bookmaker-backed '˜Champions' have just one win in six games.
However, I think this past week Evans’ men have started to slowly turn a corner.
Having travelled 578 miles, faced system changes and battled with Storm Brian, two points are better than none - which is exactly what we would have got had we continued to perform like the previous matches.
The frustration, yes the f-word, is still very much a resident of the Stags camp at the moment as there’s no reason whatsoever that from both the trips to Barnet and Newport the Stags should not have brought back maximum points.
Okay, I’ll give a little leeway with the Barnet match. Having changed system it took a while to settle and after such a poor run of form, which clearly had affected morale, a point is hard to take but acceptable as it gave something to build on.
At Newport, Evans pinned blame on Storm Brian and the difficult weather.
I find that hard to accept as a reason for a point simply because, in the first half especially, the Stags handled it expertly with Johnny Hunt especially critical at the back.
Newport have one style of play, which is out from the back, down either side and deep crosses into the box with the option of hurling a long throw into the box.
All you have to do is stop the crosses and pick up a runner and you’re okay.
The Stags failed to do that and got punished. It had nothing to do with the weather, it’s just simple football.
Our problem is that we are frail.
Yes ,we have the ability to hit teams on the counter - the returning Alfie Potter was pivotal in that at the weekend whilst Joel Byrom, when fit, will also add fuel to that particular fire.
But we are not stable enough at the back when it matters, both physically and, more worryingly, mentally.
Every time a team scores we look like the floor is about to disappear beneath us and for the remainder of the match we are walking a tightrope, desperately trying to escape with something.
We were fortunate post-equalisers in both matches to have Conrad Logan on form and fired up.
Do we dwell? No, we just work together to tighten things up and see games through.
Regardless of the competition, we mustn’t lose at Notts County in the Checkatrade Trophy on Tuesday, therefore taking us into Saturday against Exeter with a more sturdy momentum.
If we can do that, like a learner driver chugging along an A-Road in first gear, we’ll get there eventually.
There’s a saying in football of ‘snatching victory from the jaws of defeat’ – well the Stags have this knack at the minute of ‘snatching a point from the jaws of victory’.
But if we can focus and go the distance, we’ll come alive sooner rather than later and make sunshine for a miserable winter.